Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary

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Anna recalls stories that her father used to tell her about cruel torture aboard the ships on which he worked. The whips, he said, would cut to the bone. Anna reckons that Plague is like those whips, always hitting in the same raw spots. While grieving the loss of his little brother Tom, Jamie also falls into a fevered state. Elinor Mompellion sits with Anna and Jamie, and she admits that Mr. Mompellion suspected Plague when George Viccars was ill. The rector has written to some friends who study medicine, and they have suggested some means of combatting Plague, so the women try these methods on Jamie. A lump has appeared on Jamie’s armpit, and one of the treatments calls for the roasting and preparing of certain ingredients to use as a compress. However, the treatment only makes Jamie scream in pain and become damp with sweat, and Anna cannot bear to hurt her own child. In the morning, Anys Gowdie arrives with a cordial and a salve to lower Jamie’s fever. Anys rubs the salve on the boy’s body, and he drifts into sleep. But both Anys and Anna know that the salve will only bring temporary relief. Jamie suffers with Plague for five days before he passes away. On the day of his death, Anna cradles his head in her lap, knowing that all their prays have been in vain.

After Jamie’s death, Anna grows careless in her chores and does not tend well to her flock of sheep. As the sheep try to find better grazing ground, some of them become lost. In her search for the lost sheep, Anna hears yells coming from a nearby mine. There, a dozen people are gathered in a circle with Mem Gowdie on the ground in the center. They are all calling her “witch,” and Anna rushes to her defense. But the villagers dismiss Anna and decide to throw Mem in the flooded mine reasoning that if she floats, she is indeed a witch. But when they throw Mem into the water, she immediately begins to sink. Anna rushes into the pit to save Mem, but her foot breaks a rung of the ladder. Anys has arrived at the site and lends Anna a hand. Anys enters the water to save her aunt, and Anna and Mary Hadfield help pull the two women out of the pit. Anys resuscitates Mem, causing Lib Hancock to scream wildly that Anys must be a witch for she has breathed life back into Mem. Anna scolds Lib, and Lib retorts by laying bare the secret that Anna told her about Anys and George Viccars. The villagers begin to call Anys a whore, and they tie a noose that they slip around her neck. Surprisingly, Anys does not fight back—she stands tall and tells everyone that she is the Devil’s creature. She chides the villagers, and the men hoist her into the air. By the time the rector arrives, Anys hangs dead. He calls the villagers fools and berates their cruel actions, claiming that Anys fought back with the only weapon she had—the reciprocation of the villagers’ ugly thoughts and evil doubts.

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